Arizona School Choice Guide

Choosing the right school for your child can majorly impact their educational success. When weighing your options, it’s important to consider your child’s learning style, the school format, and learning materials.

You want to find a good school fit for your child, but sometimes, financial limitations can make the school that seems perfect for your child feel out of reach. That’s when certain choice programs, such as the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA), can make it easier for parents to choose the school that will best support their child’s education.

These programs provide tuition funds for a variety of eligible schools, providing families with more choices to support all types of educational needs.

What does school choice mean in Arizona?

ons for school choice include all forms of education, such as traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.

In Arizona, 5 private programs promote school choice, supporting families through finding the right fit for their child’s education. These include:

Many of these programs have specific eligibility requirements. If you plan to use one of these programs toward tuition at the school you choose for your child, it’s important to research the particular program and understand how it works in tandem with school choice in Arizona.

The Arizona ESA is one of the main drivers of school choice since it has broad eligibility requirements and can support families in a variety of circumstances.

Many of these programs have specific eligibility requirements. If you plan to use one of these programs toward tuition at the school you choose for your child, it’s important to research the particular program and understand how it works in tandem with school choice in Arizona.

The Arizona ESA is one of the main drivers of school choice since it has broad eligibility requirements and can support families in a variety of circumstances.

Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Overview 

The ESA’s funding is public, stemming from state tax dollars. If families have identified a better educational experience for their child, this additional funding can help them pursue educational opportunities outside of the public school system.

According to Arizona ESA requirements, families agree to provide an education that includes reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies, and science.

The Arizona ESA benefits both students and their families by providing:

  • Scholarship dollars that can be put toward tuition and education costs
  • Scholarship dollars for students with special needs starting as early as pre-K
  • Capacity to customize a student’s education
  • Equal opportunity for children to access a personalized learning experience
  • An easy application process

ESA Funding Amounts and Approved Spending

Through the Arizona ESA, families receive 90% of what the state would be spending on their child’s education if that child remained in the public school system.

The scholarship amount is distributed throughout the year over four quarters. Each quarter has a specific application due date which families must meet to receive funding for that quarter:

  • Q1: July 1–September 30 (Application deadline: June 1)
  • Q2: October 1–December 31 (Application deadline: September 1)
  • Q3: January 1–March 31 (Application deadline: December 1)
  • Q4: April 1–June 30 (Application deadline: March 1)

On average, families received $4,000–$5,000 for kindergarten children and $6,000–$9,000 for children in grades 1–12. Funding may vary depending on whether your child has any special needs or other accommodations. For example, students with a current IEP, MET, or 504 plan are eligible to receive additional funding based on their IEP/MET eligibility category.

  • Private school tuition
  • Home-based education curriculums
  • Tutoring services
  • Learning materials
  • Educational therapies

This is not an exhaustive list; plenty of other expenses can qualify for your ESA usage. There are, however, some items that are excluded. Some of the purchases you can’t use your ESA for include:

  • Entertainment purchases
  • Noneducational devices
  • Televisions
  • Telephones
  • Video game consoles or accessories
  • Home theater or audio equipment

Arizona ESA Eligibility Requirements

All students in grades K–12 who reside in Arizona are eligible, regardless of family income or past academic performance.

To apply, families will need to provide the following:

  • Student’s birth certificate
  • Proof of residency document
    This should be a document that lists your physical address; P.O. boxes are not accepted
  • Source(s): Arizona DOE (3), Smart Schools USA

Eligible School Requirements

Arizona ESA funds can be used for alternative schooling options, including private schools, online private schools, and homeschooling resources and curriculum. There are no restrictions on the type of education or school that ESA funds can be used for.

How to Apply

The Arizona ESA accepts applications year-round. Applications are typically processed within 30 days of submission.

  1. Submit your application, including the required documents (student’s birth certificate and proof of residence)
  2. Sign the ESA contract

The contract requires parents to agree to:

  • Ensure their child is educated in reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies, and science
  • Agree to withdraw their child from, or not enroll their child in, a public school, public charter school, or online public school (without otherwise paying the school)
  • Refuse any other monetary assistance from a state program; families can only use one funding source in a given school year
  • Provide receipts for ESA funds spent using an ESA debit card
  • Spend ESA funds honestly, avoiding fraud or misspending of funds

After you’ve finished the application process, it can take around 3 weeks to set up and fund a new ESA. Once you’ve been accepted into the ESA program, you can access your funds via ClassWallet, a third-party vendor that administers the ESA funds in a virtual account. You’ll use this account to pay schools or educational vendors directly.

Why Parents Choose the Arizona ESA

The Arizona ESA can be impactful for many families since it often provides much-needed funds to support a child’s personalized education. Each child may have different educational needs, or families might have certain values they want to emphasize in their child’s education.

With the Arizona ESA, families have more of an opportunity to explore educational options that may support:

  • A child’s particular academic needs, whether they need additional support or would benefit from an accelerated curriculum
  • Individual or personalized attention for children who may benefit from additional guidance and support
  • An educational environment that incorporates certain religious or moral teachings

With a simple and straightforward application process, the Arizona ESA empowers parents to find just the right fit for their child’s education and their family’s values.

Tax-Credit Scholarships for School Choice in Arizona

The Arizona ESA is not the only option for parents looking to secure funding to support their child’s education. Arizona also has several tax-credit scholarship programs that can help families afford to send their children to participating private schools. These include:

These programs all have varying amounts of funding and different eligibility requirements. If you’re interested in one of these programs, carefully research participating schools and other criteria.

Types of Schools You Can Choose From in Arizona

With the wide variety of support and funding options available, families can choose from several different school formats to ensure their child has an educational environment that will support their success. Arizona families can choose from:

Traditional Public Schools

Traditional public schools in Arizona operate like public schools in many other states: they’re tuition-free to attend with operating costs paid for through taxes and state funding, open to all students, and operated by school districts.

Arizona has unrestricted open enrollment for public schools, meaning a student can attend any public school, regardless of their school district, as long as their school of choice has the capacity. 

Arizona public schools cannot charge for transfer students, and all public schools’ policies must include transportation provisions.

While public schools may have a reputation as being “traditional,” each particular public school may differ in learning methods or styles. Some may just feel different to you or your child.

Public Charter Schools

Public charter schools are tuition-free (funded by state taxes) that may promote extra freedom to innovate within the curriculum or support various learning methods. Arizona specifically has more than 500 public charter schools available for parents to choose from.

The term “charter” school comes from the fact that each school has a charter that outlines its purpose and the community need it serves. Some charter schools may focus on language immersion, while others focus on mathematics education. Others may be specifically dedicated to supporting students with certain special education needs or learning disabilities.

Public Magnet Schools

Public magnet schools are also tuition-free and funded by state taxes. This type of school allows students to focus on a particular educational or learning track, such as health sciences or the performing arts.

While students still receive a well-rounded education by learning all the core subjects, those subjects are often taught through the lens of the school’s particular educational focus area.

Other examples of magnet schools include those focusing on communication skills, world language, STEM, art, and creativity.

Private Schools

Private schools are non-public schools that charge tuition. In Arizona, there are more than 450 private schools. Like charter and magnet schools, private schools can sometimes have a particular focus area or certain values at the core of their institution. Some are religious or faith-based, while others have dedicated themselves to serving students with special educational needs.

The Arizona ESA program was adapted in 2022 to expand eligibility and help achieve its goal of making private schools more accessible. Participating families can receive funds to put toward a number of qualifying expenses, including private school tuition or other aspects that support their child’s education, such as tutoring, transportation, or relevant therapy.

Online Schools

Online schools can support the educational success of a wide variety of students, whether they need a quieter, more individualized environment or more resources to accelerate their learning.

There’s an extensive list of online schools in Arizona. Some are online charter schools, while others are online learning programs offered by specific Arizona school districts.

Any costs associated with online schools are eligible to be covered by ESA funds. Suppose you’re transferring your child to an online school. In that case, it may be necessary to formally withdrawal your child from their previous school in order to initiate a funds transfer to your online school of choice.


The option to homeschool your child is not restricted to Arizona; it’s possible in all 50 states, though there may be different guidelines or requirements. Homeschooling involves educating your child at home and enables customization at every step of the learning process. In Arizona, homeschooled students can still sometimes participate in sports, extracurricular activities, or even some classes at their local public school.

If you homeschool your child, you commit to teaching reading, grammar, math, social studies, and science. Your child does not have to participate in standardized tests. You must give the state 30 days’ notice of your intent to homeschool before you begin educating your child at home.

Funds from the Arizona ESA can be used toward approved homeschooling expenses.


Microschools form when students gather with supervision to explore, learn, and socialize. In some cases, they might be a type of homeschooling, like when several homeschooled children get together to work on a certain lesson. In other cases, they might refer to more organized institutions, like a private school, that promote and empower small group work.

At their core, microschools emphasize deep, individualized learning and close-knit relationships.

Certain schools or other educational groups may offer more structured learning pods for students and families. Some of these organizations in Arizona include:

More than anything, microschooling is more about the mentality than it is any distinct definition of an educational format. Microschooling may be a supplemental learning option for some families that they participate in alongside other learning methods, like homeschooling or private school.

Tips for Choosing the Right School for Your Child

With so many options, choosing the right school for your child may seem like an overwhelming endeavor. How can you ensure that you’re picking a place that can truly support your child and drive their educational success?

Take some time to think about your child and their unique academic needs. You know your child best, so trust that you’re the right person to make this decision for them. Follow these steps so you can be confident in how you guide your child on their academic journey:

  1. Identify the goals you have for your child. What do you hope your child will accomplish? Who do you see them becoming? What matters to you when you think about your child’s future?
  2. Determine what you’re looking for in a school environment. Does your child have specific needs for their learning environment? Does your child have particularly strong interests in a certain subject area? What sort of settings does your child thrive in?
  3. Research schools and build a list. Make a list of all the schooling options that might be a good fit for your child and meet your criteria from the first two steps in this process.
  4. Visit schools or participate in info sessions. Once you have your shortlist, visit schools in person or participate in online info sessions to learn more about your options.
  5. Evaluate options. With all the information you now have about these schools, evaluate them against the initial criteria you laid out for your child’s learning environment. For each school, ask yourself if this is somewhere you could see your child learning and succeeding. Ask yourself if you agree with the school’s values, approach, and culture. Narrow your choices down to just a few finalists.
  6. Choose your school. The choice that you ultimately make for your child is going to be a highly personal one. It will depend on your child, their needs, and your family’s lifestyle. The right choice for your child only needs to be the right choice for them.

Explore Participating Schools for Your Student

Get started finding the right school for your child by browsing schools that participate in the Arizona ESA program. Once you find an eligible school, you’re well on your way to ensuring your child’s success throughout their academic journey.


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